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Annan says UN's "historic" session on AIDS will produce clear battle plan

Annan says UN's "historic" session on AIDS will produce clear battle plan

Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said the United Nations General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS was a "truly historic event" that would produce a clear battle plan for the war against the pandemic.

Speaking at a news conference at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Annan said that the declaration of commitment to be adopted later today at the close of the three-day session would serve as a "blueprint from which the whole of humanity can work, in building a global response to this global challenge."

The Secretary-General said the level of attendance at the special session demonstrated that "the world is at long last waking up to the gravity of the HIV/AIDS crisis."

While the involvement of political leaders had been key, he said he was "perhaps even more impressed" by the strong participation of non-governmental activists taking part in the session. "You can feel the presence of these activists everywhere, and they really transform the atmosphere of the building," he said.

The Secretary-General noted that partnerships with non-governmental activists, though they may bring "problems and controversy," are essential to success. "In the last two days, some painful differences have been brought into the open -- but that is the best place for them," he said. "Like AIDS itself, these differences need to be confronted head on, not swept under the carpet."

On efforts to galvanize resources in the fight against the disease, the Secretary-General said he had been gratified by the widespread support voiced for the Global AIDS and Health Fund, which he had originally proposed in April. He said that having consulted with many different parties, he would convene a group representing all stakeholders to finalize the details of the Fund. "This transitional group will complete its work in time for the Fund to become operational by the end of the year," he said.

Noting that the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS had been receiving cheques, the Secretary-General held one up for $1,000 from a private citizen, saying "I am delighted to say it is marked 'first instalment.'"

The Secretary-General said he had asked the UN Foundation to set up a special account to receive such contributions, which would be tax exempt for United States citizens and taxpayers, so that funds could be transferred to the Global Fund as soon as it becomes operational.

"All in all, I feel even more confident today than I did three days ago that we can defeat this deadly disease," he said.